There are estimated to be 1,600 lions in Kruger National Park photo: Reuters[/caption]
A group of 14 lions has been spotted roaming near a mine in north-east South Africa, prompting warnings from local officials.
The pride was seen near Phalaborwa Foskor mine, just west of Kruger National Park near the Mozambique border.
Rangers are monitoring the animals, and authorities plan to capture them and release them back into the reserve.
Limpopo province officials warned civilians to “be alert at all times”.
Kruger National Park is one of the biggest game reserves in Africa, covering an area of 19,485 sq km (7,523 sq miles).
The area is largely fenced off, and it is unclear how the lions left the park.
What now for the escaped lions?
This may be the largest lion escape South Africa has ever seen, authorities have said. Four or five lions escaped in Mpumalanga and were spotted in Matsulu village in 2017.
Municipal worker Mahira Masakwameng, 38, who has lived in Phalaborwa his whole life, told me he knows of four lion attacks in the area since his childhood – the last was a hunter a few years ago.
“People are afraid because unlike other animals we’ve seen roaming the streets from time to time over the years, we know lions attack when they come into contact with humans,” he said.
He hopes the animals will be captured soon.
National parks spokesperson Ike Phahla explained that simply returning them to the reserve may not work. “They may escape again or be chased off by other lions, because lions are quite territorial”.
One of the suggestions is to relocate them to another provincial park – find them an area large enough for them to live in but that is yet to be decided.
After a lion called Sylvester escaped Karoo national park twice in 2016, he was given his own pride and encouraged to become an alpha male.